- bestie #1: '... getting these jeans on - it's literally making me break a sweat.'
- bestie #2: '... that's good, it means they're working.'
a familiar voice crossed my mind this morning. it’s a man’s voice that i used to hold no other to. but for first time in over a decade, i felt nothing.
not so long ago, but what feels like a galaxy far far away, i had a fascination with this man. i spent years loving him, and found so much comfort, escape and fulfillment in his voice. my passion for this voice and what he created carried me through the best of times and the darkest days, my entire adolescence and all over north america in my clunker of a car. but these days, all that remains of him is an autographed black and white photograph in my bedroom, alongside a shoebox full of memories, memorabilia and ticket stubs from a different time, tucked in the corner of my closet.
this used to be the most wonderful time of the year for me. when spring finally arrives, i don’t think we really understand how much winter, or a winter can take out of a person. days like today in years past, i would find myself among other members of his community, desperate to see tour dates pop up. an email from his fan club would finally make it official, and i would find myself bursting with fruit flavour, racing up the stairs to tell anyone who would listen, all the while picking up the phone to beg my friends to spare enough change/OSAP to go and see him.
i was first introduced to dave matthews the summer before i turned 15. i still remember the day. my family and i were away for our annual vacation in a sleepy cottage town called thunder beach, ontario. we stayed in bit of a dive of a hotel for 3-4 weeks a year, but we loved every single fibre of that place with its whispering pine trees, white sandy beaches, water-logged afternoons and evening bonfires. it was storming like crazy that day, and i found myself alongside other kids my age, playing spoons in a cottage as old as as my grandmother. hours went by like minutes, and even in spite of the rain - the afternoons of that summer were filled with nothing but laughter.
this particular game of spoons ended up becoming quite heated between two of the other kids, and some would argue that it was just mild flirtation. as a prank, one of the boys threw a pretty important family heirloom out into the deluge which sent the girl racing out into the storm to save it, alongside her head along with it. he locked her out of the cottage, and started blasting ‘crash into me’ at its maximum volume - her most hated of all songs at the time, and stood there and smiled through the screen while she belted countless obscenities and relentlessly banged on the door to be let inside, soaking wet.
and within those moments - i fell in love.
‘crash’ would become his most infamous album, and known amongst the fan base as the record that broke them into the mainstream. five years before i came to learn about them, dave matthews band and tim reynolds had been touring non-stop up the north eastern seaboard, and was one of the first bands at the time to allow for free open taping policy at their concerts. universities and colleges are hubs for the latest in music, and a single live cd from a show in new york managed to make it’s way to my friend’s sister’s dorm room, and eventually, my ears.
i listened and loved that band throughout my teens and early twenties. their best music was made between 1995 - 2003; a period that’s known as the renaissance era for the band as they worked closely with producer, steve lilywhite. like most teenagers, adolescence was pretty bumpy for me while i tried to figure things out; who i was, what i wanted, where i fit in, what i was good at, what i should be when i grow up, you know - all of the overwhelming pressure that that period normally brings. dave matthews, my love for his music and the community that came with him for me became what was constant; it was the part of myself that i knew for sure. his music, and my idea of him became like a warm bright light - and even a life preserver in some cases with all the things that life can do to break your heart. i would escape in it, relish in it, play time against my troubles in it and use it as opportunity to spend time with my best friends and be free of responsibility.
in the end, i would end up seeing dave matthews in some form - solo, with tim reynolds, with full band, with brady blade and trey anatasio and at music festivals - over 30 times. i travelled across Canada and US and found solace in the journey and the parking lots filled with hipster kids with cases of beer, CDs of live shows and guitars - and in some sort of strange way, i felt like i belonged to something. fans would often show up with CD cases full of shows and you would trade them like baseball cards, and discover new music along the way. i still remember each show like it was yesterday; it’s nuances, playlists and jams and how at the time - it filled my soul. i remember looking over at my friends and losing my mind when he would play a rarity, have a guest appearance or play a favourite. i remember blowing my speakers just outside of cleveland, waiting 3 hours to get out of the parking lot at darien lake, street meat in the ghettos of rochester and having my car have to be towed which was inhibiting 17,000 other DMB fans from getting home to see their loved ones. i also remember every single friend that i phoned from each show and held my phone in the air, because it was a moment so remarkable that i needed to find some way to share it with them and communicate that i wished that they were there too.
and i can also tell you the day that everything changed - june 13, 2006.
it was the day that i met him.
there are times where i wish that i never met him. admittedly, you never should put anyone up on a pedestal, but i couldn’t help it. the fantasy died that june afternoon when the man albeit became human and was demoted from the shape-shifting superhero that wore a 12-string gibson instead of a cape. and i can’t blame him for being himself.
after that, i kept trying to go back - chasing the dragon and the old fix, so to speak. but i just saw everything differently, and i couldn’t change it back. i only went to a handful of shows after that, and even at some had some of the best seats in the house thanks to his fan club. but i don’t think that i can blame just that incident - i think that incident just woke me up.
what i do know is that the music changed and i started to see the holes in him; what the cigarettes and the drinking had burned in his voice and his soul, and how all of the money changed the things that he would write about. you could tell that he was different up there from the shows that i saw in my teens, just not as playful, responsive - open, and i remember one show - almost lifeless. it was like a light had gone out for both him and and for me, and he was up there almost as though it was his job.
i changed too. i realized that i was using his music as a crutch, something to hide behind because my reality wasn’t what i wanted it to be.
the final show that i would see, would be in toronto at the amphitheatre. not 5 days before that, i travelled by myself to washington dc to see him and tim reynolds play at a very exclusive benefit for jane goodall. i was within the first 10 rows at one of the most prestigious shows in the last 5 years. but even at that show, i found myself anticipating the setlist and couldn’t just enjoy it. i found myself frustrated when he didn’t play the songs that were in my opinion some of the most magical pieces of music that were written during my generation.
when i came back to toronto for the full band show, i sat in the first row, centre of the 200s at the amphitheatre. best seats in the venue. beside me was this boy, maybe just turned 17 who was there with his friends, and he literally could not contain his excitement. his eyes were as big as saucers as dave came out to introduce the opening act, and turned to me and said, ‘what show is this for you?’
‘this is number 30 for me.’
‘wow. this is my 2nd show. we just got back from darien lake. what was your last show?;
‘the acoustic jane goodall benefit, in DC.’
‘oh man - i would have given absolutely anything i had to go to that show. he is just so awesome and i just discovered his music and i’m learning to play guitar because of him.’
i felt guilty. there i was, knowing what i just experienced, and i almost regretted it going to the DC show entirely. i realized that it was time to give up my seat. someone else belongs here, and it’s not me. something’s different - it doesn’t fit anymore.
i would cancel my warehouse membership just days later. and i haven’t been back since. and i’m okay with it. but i would be lying if there wasn’t a part of me that wished that i could go to the show this year and have it feel the same that it always did. this growing thing - especially lately, is really tough. you know that you’re growing when the familiar things don’t work for you anymore, but i can’t help but feel a sense of loss, or a bit of a void. you try to repurpose things in your life to fill up your heart again - but it’s not really quite the same.
i think sometimes we keep these shoeboxes full of things because they hold memories so powerful that we’re not really sure what to do with them in our present lives. we can’t let go of them by throwing them out just yet, but we still need to give them space and we come back to them when we’re ready.
at the end of it all - i created this. it’s all my perception, and i don’t regret a single moment that i spent there, with my friends and loving his music. while i may see things incredibly differently than i used to as a 14 year old girl, what i am left with today is this:
he is the reason that i love music and will forever be my john lennon.
standing in line at the convenience store this morning, patiently waiting to pay for my diet coke - my favourite little indian lady standing behind the counter smiles and says to me, ‘card girl! do you have an easter bunny card?’
i smiled and then politely declined. ‘sadly, not this time.’
‘my daughter’, she said, ‘she is inspired by you. i showed her your cards because they are so bright and colourful and have all of those sparkles. she bakes cupcakes and uses the same colours that you do! she loves to be creative, just like you.’
‘well thank you,’ i said. ‘what about you? what do you like to do? what do you love?’
‘i don’t know. i opened this store with my husband 30 years ago, right after we got married. i’ve between working here all these hours and raising my daughters, i haven’t had much time.’
i couldn’t help but see and feel the anguish in her eyes. maybe a little bit of exhaustion with a side of selflessness. my heart sunk a little. i paid my $1.25 trying to hide my own emphatic eyes and left.
this brings me back to one of my many training sessions on the spin bike. one of my favourite coaches - a french iron/bionic woman with a pain threshold that would put 87% of men to shame, was coaching us through a particularly grueling endurance ride. i think we were about 57-58 minutes in, and a classroom, 60 people strong had screaming quads and were fighting through dehydration, breathlessness and fatigue.
‘final 1000 metres,’ she calmly called to us over the mic. ‘this is where you can win everything or lose everything that you have worked so hard for. i know that you’re tired, but who do you picture waiting for you at the finish line? can they change the way that you compete?’
in my opinion - you have four options:
1. picture someone who thinks that you can’t do it and you prove them wrong.
2. picture someone that you would give anything to achieve something for
3. picture someone who wishes that they could achieve the same feat, but they can’t – so you do it in their honour
4. do it for yourself.
i wish that i could say that i have lived my life skewing a little higher on option 4, and that i didn’t rely so heavily on option 1. however, option 1 with a little dose of option 2 & 3 have been the ticket to helping me achieve some of my greatest accomplishments.
north american society is really funny sometimes and oftentimes - i just don’t think we make a lot of sense. i also would be lying if i didn’t say that every time that i see someone reading an article about the kardashians’ latest sob story / marketing ploy, i don’t feel a little sad inside. yes, i’m judging. and yes - i’m fine with it.
what i can’t help but be curious about is how often people actually check in with themselves, and do a litmus test about what’s really driving them. i often wonder how many ask themselves before purchasing something what they’re consuming that item for. how many people go to work everyday and dream of doing something else and don’t feel as though they’re contributing to something bigger, or being challenged the way that they wish they could be. i also ask myself everytime that i walk by magazine racks, why all of those physically beautiful people keep undergoing cosmetic surgery, and are afraid to have their photo up there if it’s not photoshopped. walking down university avenue, random tuesdays - i ask why a man must feel as though that he needs to buy a porsche to show the world that he is successful and has power? the only question that seems to follow that scenario for me is - what is he not getting at home, or didn’t get when he was growing up?
i know you see it too. and i raise you this:
the role of facebook. introducing narcissism as a microcosm at its finest. perfect example – a man that i was mixed up with in university recently tried to ‘friend’ me on facebook. i accepted. he then asked me if i wanted to hang out sometime – and i politely asked him, ‘why? we haven’t spoken in six years – but i already know everything significant that’s happened to you during that period of time thanks to facebook through your pictures. i know when you bought your first house, got nice little boat upgrade, that new car thanks to a promotion. do you have anything else that you’d like to tell me about?’
he didn’t really say all that much after that.
the key insight - facebook gave us a funnel and a one-way ticket toward exhibitionism.
today’s generation has the liberty to achieve new heights for the lifestyles that we’re able to lead, the luxuries that we have access to, the careers that we’re able to pursue and the places that we’re able to see. however – with such a huge stride forward, i keep hoping that we’ll see a paradigm shift with it as well, one that would represent an evolution in our values, much like what gene roddenbury envisioned for society, and having us all evolve beyond the principles of capitalism and instead have actions and policy be about the greater good for the human race. but not everyone feels as though that they are responsible for helping to make the world a better place. but i do.
that’s not to say that i’m kept up at night thinking about how to solve the climate crisis, how to deal with the re-integration of american soldiers back into society after long stints in controversial wars or the implications of the keystone pipeline on the free-market economy. that’s not it at all. i’m not in a position where i have the ability to change the world – i’m just normal. but i do feel a twinge of consciousness, guilt, obligation and fear when i hear about these things on the news and read about them in the paper.
but i do feel as though i have the power to change things on a much smaller level, and have the ability touch those in my own little world. we can talk about the issues that face the world at large, and the small changes that we can make and try and to slightly ease the things that weigh so heavily on our world. i can live an authentic life by being true to myself and consistently showing up for my own inner peace. maybe i can finally shift the balance of the hours of my life that i lived in spite of others – chapters of time where i was desperate to prove to them otherwise. i can shift to doing things to nourish myself and my own soul, finding new ways for fulfillment. maybe all of this just comes with maturity, and realizing, that all of those people that inspired me in a negative way - maybe never really cared about whether or not i won or lost, succeeded or accomplished anything at all.
a lot of self-reflection these days. i don’t have try to pretend that i have all the answers – but i’ve come across one, i feel fulfilled when i help people.
so i have that. atleast there’s that.
the wretched desert takes its form
the jackal proud and tight
in search of you i feel my way
through slowest heaving night
whatever fear invents
i swear it makes no sense
i reach out through the border fence
come down, come talk to me
in the swirling curling storm of desire
unuttered words hold fast
with reptile tongue, the lightning lashes
towers built to last
darkness creeps in like a thief
and offers no relief
why are you shaking like a leaf?
come on, come talk to me
oh please talk to me
won’t you please talk to me
we can unlock this misery
come on, come talk to me
i did not come to steal
this all is so unreal
can’t you show me how you feel?
now come on, come talk to me
come talk to me
come talk to me
the earthly power sucks shadowed milk
from sleepy tears undone
from nippled skin as smooth as silk
the bugles blow as one
you lie there with your eyes half closed
like there’s no-one there at all
there’s a tension pulling on your face
come on, come talk to me
won’t you please talk to me?
if you’d just talk to me
unblock this misery
if you’d only talk to me
don’t you ever change your mind
now your future’s so defined
and you act so deaf, so blind
come on, come talk to me
come talk to me
come talk to me
i can imagine the moment
breaking out through the silence
all the things that we both might say
and the heart, it will not be denied
‘til we’re both on the same damn side
all the barriers blown away
i said please talk to me
won’t you please come talk to me?
just like it used to be
come on, come talk to me
i did not come to steal
this all is so unreal
can you show me how you feel?
now come on, come talk to me
come talk to me
come talk to me
i think buddha is becoming my homeboy.
just days after christmas this year, i was benched from my marathon workouts and spinning sessions after succumbing to a pretty serious back injury. a sacroiliac sprain became a prolonged, horrible date with pinched nerves, which sent unrelenting pain down both my back and legs. not fun. i definitely wasn’t all that fun either, which my friends, family and colleagues could vouch, i’m sure. the only fix was the normal prescription of any sports related injury - rest, ice and anti-inflammatories.
everyone has different coping mechanisms, but we all have something that i think helps us feel release. coping mechanisms - healthy ones anyway, serve as outlets which are incredibly important, and i also think that they’re incredibly important to try protect. today’s world isn’t afraid to try take everything from you, but our time participating in these activities and passions represent windows of opportunity to have something that’s purely ours; something that the rest of the world just can’t have, or have an opinion of.
admittedly, i’m hands-down addicted exercise. i think it’s the endorphins. the feeling of the runners high is a premium, but i’ve now trained my body enough that i have the ability to get it from running, spinning and yoga. it’s so exceptional that nothing else can compare to it; a calm comes over your body and you feel a sense of freedom so powerful that it’s like you’re floating, feeling everything and nothing at the same time. i also firmly believe that our passions and outlets contribute to our self-concept, and help us find identity in who we are.
for a solid three months, pain management has been key. the first few weeks when i couldn’t do anything, i felt like i was in brain jail. i found my temper shorter alongside my patience and struggled to feel identity, purpose, and optimism. pain, especially chronic pain - takes it’s toll on the body in more ways than just physically.
i denied my injury at first, thinking that i could just substitute around it. clearly, not the case and i even made things worse. i finally had to accept my fate and just… rest. it was such a foreign concept to me. my entire life i’ve been a type a - and we don’t rest. we’re always busy doing something, chasing something, pushing ourselves to be better and craving the next best and most challenging thing.
so, as a spiritual gangster thanks to a really good friend, i decided to pick up meditation as a daily practice. we continuously text each other after we meditate with the word, ‘done.’ and i’ll tell ya - a daily meditation practice is 10x harder than any workout that i’ve ever had and it’s as scary as hell.
last year, i decided to leap out of my comfort zone and venture off to a surf/yoga retreat in costa rica. a huge group of us practiced yoga and meditation with the sunrise and sunset for over 3 hours a day, eating completely vegetarian and local food. i came home in such a deep sense of peace, i felt like i was floating. i was so healthy, i’m pretty sure i shined. i’ve never felt better or clearer in my life.
what i’ve come to learn about meditation is that it’s our teacher. it teaches us everything that we’re afraid to admit to ourselves. it uncovers why we do things, our fears, attachments and judgments, and forces us to see the power that these things have over us. it also teaches us to slow down and be in the present moment. in modern day life, we just seem to move from one thing to the next, and the practice teaches us appreciation, gratitude and the goodness around us instead of chasing the next best thing. sitting in silence forces us to notice things - specifically when we start labeling things that are good or bad, and uncovers craving, aversion and logic behind our most primitive thoughts. it shows us the stories that we’re creating around our experiences and the reality that we’re creating for ourselves.
but in all of the chaos of the last few months - something’s happened. and i don’t know what to do with it. i realized it last wednesday.
i finally felt strong enough to get back on the spin bike, where i’m pretty sure my injury came from in the first place. i was riding a lot - 5 days a week sometimes. i was notoriously driven in those classes, always among the strongest riders, pushing my body to new heights for power, strength and endurance. i chased and lead with cadence, perfected my technique and always felt empowered after a strong ride. i competed. i religiously counted my workouts and labeled them as ‘training sessions’ when i was at my peak.
but last wednesday, for the first time ever when i rode - i felt nothing. i couldn’t have cared less. i counted the minutes instead of getting lost in the music, road after road and track after track.
what the hell happened?
i started thinking - what am i doing this for?
why do i just want to get through this? all of the health benefits - cardiovascular, my training friends and beyond, i should want to do this? this used to be what i loved?
the next morning during meditation i couldn’t help but think - what happens when our moments just start becoming something that we get through, instead of living in? every moment isn’t going to be ideal, and there are things that ultimately we have to do when we have to be responsible. but how often are we doing things that we hate? and even in the moments we hate the most, shouldn’t we be trying to take something for ourselves in them? see the positive side of things and that it’s the challenges that are what make us stronger?
i think the yoga taking over.
all that talk about no attachment and judgment, did it just kick in?
maybe for the first time in my life, the race is over. maybe it’s that i realize that it isn’t the next thing. that maybe – that thing - just maybe it’s right here in front of me? instead of spending all of that time chasing something, stay where i am, and find foundation and strength and reach for the stars when i’m ready, not when pack decides.
but this spans beyond spinning. did i maybe make peace? did i just complete a huge personal paradigm shift? did i just decide that instead of counting the minutes and the kilometres, instead of feeling the narcissistic effects of facebook and linkedin, instead of chasing composite ideals set by my peer group and all of the dollars, titles, cents that go with them- did i just drop what didn’t serve me? have i just decided to be content with where i’m at and find freedom in that?
i’m not sure.
my resolution for 2012 was, ‘what can you let go of? what can you create?’
i think i just committed to finding peace and contentment in creating my own space.